Guest Post: Mike Newman from RotoScouting

Mike Newman from RotoScouting, and formerly from FanGraphs and Scouting the Sally, stops by Fake Teams with a guest post today, offering insights into the differences between scouting and scouting for fantasy baseball.

This article was written by Mike Newman from RotoScouting. You can read more of his work at RotoScouting, so if you like what you read below, check out his new site.

ROTOscouting? Fantasy Baseball Scouting Reports? What?

The black and white world of baseball writing sucks. Prospects or MLB? Scouting or fantasy? Data analysis or scouting? It's as if somebody created bins and added the names of writers to each. Then, those bins are covered and padlocks are added to assure writers don't branch out into other areas.

In that world, fantasy baseball scouting reports aren't welcomed. This has been a frequent topic of conversation in six years writing about baseball prospects. It hurts credibility. It make scouting more difficult because there's a difference between fantasy baseball and MLB. That sentiment forced me to avoid writing about a game I've played since selecting Darryl Strawberry with the fourth overall pick in his first year with the Dodgers (1991).

In some ways, those who questioned the utility of combining scouting and fantasy baseball are right. They are different, and it takes work to separate the two. At ROTOscouting, MLB scouting reports and fantasy baseball scouting reports will be featured, allowing readers to learn the subtle differences between both.

Here's an example of a MLB scouting summary on Indians prospect Francisco Lindor:

"Francisco Lindor is a premium defender with the potential for multiple gold gloves. A premium athlete, he makes plays deep in the hole look easy. Off of his back foot, he fires missiles across the diamond and has value even if the bat fails to develop. On offense, Lindor's has strong contact skills, but the power tool is limited. Lindor is explosive and has the speed to steal 30-plus bases at the Major League level."

Lindor is a top-10 prospect in all of baseball, but was selected nearly 200 picks into the TDGX Experts League draft over at TheDynastyGuru.com. For those who haven't been following, it's a 20-team league with 40-man rosters and 35-keepers. Lindor slipped because of write ups like the one above? At last check, fielding percentage isn't a 5x5 category, so who cares about defense anyway?

Dismissing premium defenders in fantasy baseball is a generalization fueled by MLB scouting reports. Those pieces are so over the top positive about defense, it must be impossible for the bat to stack up. The result is a player who slides down draft boards due to perception and difficulty separating fantasy baseball value from MLB value.

All scouting reports are written with a goal of accentuating the positives about a player, while addressing weakness in the profile. MLB scouting reports focus on the whole player while fantasy baseball scouting reports only need to discuss what's relevant to fantasy baseball. The owner no longer has to draw his or her own conclusions because the report has a different focus.

Fantasy baseball scouting reports read differently:

"Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor has the ability to produce .285+ batting averages with 30 steals. At the top of a strong lineup, he'll reach base enough to be a consistent 100 runs scored threat. Home run and RBI totals will underwhelm, but three category shortstops are difficult to find. Plus, a gold glove defensive profile means Lindor is guaranteed to spend the bulk of his career at the position, as opposed to Javier Baez and Xander Bogaerts, two players who project to move off of shortstop eventually."

Sound a bit like Elvis Andrus doesn't it? The Rangers shortstop was drafted in round three of the TDGX draft and will be that team's shortstop for the next decade if the league sticks around. Until the arrival of Braves Andrelton Simmons, scouting contacts were unanimous in their belief Andrus was the best defensive shortstop in baseball. Yes, the 25-year old has also become a coveted player in 5x5 formats. When forced to focus on fantasy baseball impact alone, premium defense helps to boost the profile, not harm it.

This wasn't the only example of prospects with elite defensive profiles slipping either. Consensus top-30 overall prospect Austin Hedges of the San Diego Padres fell to me at pick #537. Later, top-100 overall prospect Christian Bethancourt of the Braves entered the fold after being selected #737.

But fantasy baseball scouting reports aren't the only reason to check out ROTOscouting. Our contributors include two former MLB operations employees, a pair of prospect writers from Bullpen Banter and three others with baseball blogging experience. Plus, we'll feature two writers who are new to baseball blogging, but have backgrounds in broadcasting.

Beyond daily pieces and live chats, ROTOscouting invites every amateur scout to contribute to YOUscout, our online scouting forms (Hitters, Pitchers). These are 100% free to submit and review. Consider it our version of crowdsourcing. At present, prospect writers who focus on scouting are held in high regard and deservedly so. However, they all had to start somewhere. We wanted to create a starting point for the next wave. When the MILB season begins, the scouting staff will use YOUscout to house scouting information for prospects who won't be included in long form reports.

At ROTOscouting, we've taken a "Field Of Dreams" approach to the new venture -- build it and trust subscribers will want to support a start up looking to cement itself in the industry. Whether it works or not, I've never been so excited about a project in six years writing baseball.

**A special thanks for Ray for providing me the sounding board. He has been a true friend in the industry.**

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